Sunday, August 17, 2014


Our final day here in Haiti and we are all thinking about what it is we want to remember.  This is exactly what I blogged about on our final day here last August and it is exactly what I need again tonight.

Wow!  What a wonderful week with a wonderful team.  I am so incredibly happy that I continue to be consumed with emotions while I am serving.  As we left the Haiti airport, I was so happy to hear that familiar sound of the tap tap....I loved it!  As we follow our water truck into Cite Soleil, I listen in anticipation for the children to start chanting "Hey You, Hey You, Hey You", you can then look out the back of the tap tap and see them come running after us, still chanting.  Running as fast as they can and their arms are stretched just waiting for us to step out and pick them up.  I LOVE grabbing the little kids holding and loving them.  Because I knew what to expect, I was able to watch new members come off the truck and was able to witness their first experience  - how amazing!  I will always remember the pier that we walk out onto - it's significance.  I love signing and dancing with the children there.

Another favorite experience and one that I want to remember is also a very hard one....our second water truck day and our final stop this trip to Cite Soleil....Alex....a 12 year old boy.  He stole my heart and I am afraid a piece of it will remain there until I return and can find him.  Until you realize how old a child is, you don't fully realize the effects of malnutrition over time.  If I can digress for a moment, this became apparent to me this summer as I watched the Haitian Initiative Soccer Team in Blaine playing for the Schwann's Cup.  The boys from Haiti were playing a team from Mankato - all the same age range.  What became very apparent to me was the size difference.  The boys from Haiti were a head shorter than the boys from became apparent to me in that very moment what the long term effects of malnutrition looked like.  Going back to Alex....he seemed to be "watching out" for our team members.  As we would help the women and children carry their very heavy buckets full of water, Alex would run after team members and tell us we had gone far enough.  I believe this was for our protection.  He would tell us to set the bucket down and go back to the water truck.  Alex spoke pretty good English so we could communicate just a bit.  I learned he is not able to go to school.  I also learned his age, Alex is 12....Alex is NO taller than my 7yo boys - my heart broke in that very moment.  Alex saw me crying and quickly went to get one of our interpreters to check on me....I was fine, just broken hearted.  We did not get a picture of Alex, but he is etched in my mind forever.

Another very memorable (hard) moment was General Hospital.  This is a county run hospital that truly is for the poorest of the poor.  There were many sick children there, the bright spot in our visit was our interpreter, Emmanuel - he brought his guitar and sang at the bedside of a very sick child for a good portion of our visit.  Beauty beyond belief and one I will want to remember.

Visiting the Elders is an absolute favorite day of mine.  I was able to witness a team member have nearly the same experience I had last year on my 1st visit with an elder - moved beyond words, again so very beautiful!  A highlight from this day, again, is the singing we do with our interpreters and also witnessing the respect the Haitian people have for their elders.  This experience fills my heart beyond measure - incredible!

The visit to the Mass Grave is always a favorite of mine....being retold the story of that day, the earthquake that created mass destruction.  I, again, feel blessed to have been able to walk around that area and climb the mountain to the crosses (last year).  Now there is a wall around the area and we are not allow in.  It is still very powerful and evokes many emotions.  Very heartbreaking!

We were able to visit the Haitian Initiative in Site Soleil - something I was looking forward to on this trip.  The kids weren't there that day, but it didn't matter.  We got to meet one of the coaches who came to MN last month with the boys to play in Blaine.  We also got to see the field that they play/practice on - all rubble.  Could you imagine our children learning to play that way?  WOW!

On Saturday we took an orphanage to WaHoo Bay to swim - it was simply awesome.  We all had so much fun together and the children's smiles were such a blessing.

Today was our "team day", we did not serve.  It was a fun day of worship at Grace Village - with amazing music and a wonderful sermon about Daniel and the Lion's Den.  From there we had a drive through downtown Port-Au-Prince and were able to see where some of the damage occurred from the earthquake in 2010.  There is lots of rebuilding going on, but still looked pretty devastated, at least to me.  We drove up the mountain and stopped along the way to do some shopping and just spend time together as a group.

I am, of course, looking forward to seeing Dana and the kids....but I feel no where near ready to be done with Haiti.  I am so thankful for this experience with this team.  Two other very, very favorite memories that I will treasure is having one of our leaders be able to experience this journey with her father and one of her sisters.  I am desperate to share this experience with Dana or my dad....I hope that can one day happen.  The last one I will mention is a boy named Gerno....he is an 18 year old boy from Grace Village.  He is in their transition program due to his age.  He stayed in our guesthouse with us for most of the week.  He is working to (I think) become a translator.  He came with us a few days and helped out.  He is such a sweet boy who shared just a tiny glimps into his life that I wonder about.  Where did he come from, what was his life before Grace Village, what will happen to him once he is done there.  He ate meals with us, played the guitar and sang for us, prayed with us - we grew to love him!  We were able to say a proper goodbye today after church.  A picture of him is included below.

Thank you for all of your prayers, support, thoughts and well wishes during this journey.

Marni Severson

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Heart for Haiti

Alo from Haiti to all of our friends and family back home.  We think of and pray for you often!  Today was a very good day.  It began in a very meaningful way.  On our way to Shalom House we saw one of Haiti’s mass grave sites.  The one we saw is about the size of a football field.  Our interpreters told us their stories of what they went through when the earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010, and they described to us how the mass graves were created.  It’s a very sad story, but one we will be happy to share with you when we return.  Even though we felt sad we all agree that the mass grave site had a very Holy and reverent feeling to it.  After that we were on our way to Shalom House, one of the orphanages Healing Haiti sponsors.  We were blessed to take 12 children and 2 helpers from the house to the beach at Wahoo Bay.  It was a Haitian field trip!  It is very difficult to put into words how beautiful this beach is.  Picture jewel toned water surrounded by beautiful rocks and stones, blue sky, and lush trees and flowers with majestic mountains in the background.  I spent a moment by myself by the edge of the water just soaking it in.  I was on a beach in Haiti – unreal!  We were, however, mostly excited for the children.  This was only the second time they have ever been to the beach.  It was fun to observe them and compare them to the children at my preschool back home.  We are worlds away but so similar.  Some children dove in right away while some held back and just watched for a while.  There was one little boy who spent a lot of time on the edge.  At one point he had a sand sifter on top of a mold and he was dipping a sponge in the water and squeezing it into his contraption and watching the effect.  I saw the same eagerness towards natural learning and discovery that I see back home and it just made me feel like all would be well.  Suffice it to say, we were in the water all day!  It was just the blessing our team needed today after our morning on the water truck and afternoon at General Hospital yesterday.  We were weary so God provided the rest and restoration we needed.  Our leader, Carol, told us that Healing Haiti carefully maps out the week of serving to create the best experience possible.  I can attest to this.  On our first day, as we pulled up to our first water truck stop my heart grew so big as I went to step out of the Tap Tap truck.  I looked down at a sea of beautiful faces and saw them all reaching up for me to hold them and my heart grew so full.  Then, as I picked up two beautiful kids and started walking forward I noticed all of the broken glass on the ground and the kids running around with no shoes.  My full heart immediately shattered like that glass.  But, bit by bit, through different service opportunities throughout the week God has rebuilt my heart.  He’s putting it back together the way He wants it to be.  And as we continue to serve any time my heart starts to feel comfortable, or needs to be humbled God will start taking it down again.  At this point I have no idea what my heart will look like as I end this wonderful trip, but I know that by God’s grace it will be a heart with different priorities than when I first began this journey.  It will be a heart filled with love and service towards others.  And it will be a heart for Haiti.

In His name,

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Heart to Serve

Our day started bright and early as our team attended an early morning Haitian church service. It was inspiring to see how they worship with such spirit and praise to God.  We came back to our guesthouse to another big breakfast that filled us right up for another morning of serving on the water truck.

Once again we enjoyed spending time playing and loving all the little children while providing their precious water to fill their buckets.  Between our water truck stops we were able to visit the Haitian Initiative and see their soccer fields and feeding center.  This organization provides over 600 Feed My Starving Children meals a day.  It was wonderful for many of us to see the meals that we package back home in Minnesota be used to feed the children of Haiti. 

Our afternoon was spent at General Hospital, which is a large government run hospital.  We visited the babies and children in the pediatric unit. We delivered some medical supplies and care packages with needed items for the patients and families for their personal use and care.

On a personal note, I feel very blessed and glad to be here on this trip to witness this part of the world and how they live.  I am so thankful that I have been able to share this experience with my two daughters at my young age of 77 years old.  I have been so impressed by the three young teenage girls that have been on this trip with me and I would encourage that more young people and people of all ages could have this experience and have the heart to serve.  What an eye opening experience it has been.


The Children

  On the way to the home of sick and dying babies a few days ago, I started to notice how different some areas were from others in the places we visited while bringing water to people, you could just see how poor they were and how terrible the places they lived were. Seeing the kids run up to us with bare feet broke my heart, they ran over garbage and broken glass not caring at all, and in other parts you could see that some people were better off. They had homes(small ones), better clothes and food. You could see they were not struggling as much, they had a nicer life. And then there were people who had cars, and big houses protected by big walls, and it kind of makes me sick. They are living in nice big homes while there are people not that far away living in terrible conditions.
  When we got to the home for the babies, it was nice, the parents were there, and I got to play with the kids, and I was happy. But when the parents left, the babies started to scream and cry. I had no idea what to do, I felt so helpless, I wanted to help them all, I wanted to hold them  and I wanted to make them all feel better. And all I could do was stand there holding a baby and try not to cry, and I finally couldn't hold it back anymore and I couldn't stop crying, my heart was completely shattered as I looked at all of the crying babies.

  Yesterday was a much better day for me. My favorite part of that day was going to Grace Village. All the children were so happy to see us. They ran up to the Taptap and helped us get out and held our hands. At one point while we were there, I made a new friend, a young boy who was around 6, when we were sitting down he laid down on my lap and fell asleep. I felt so special when he did that, I felt my heart melt, I was so happy for him and all of the other children there. They got to live in a safe place with food and clean water and a comfortable place to sleep compared to other children in Haiti, who lived in conditions far more horrible than I could have ever imagined. I recall seeing huge amounts of glass, human and animal waste, and garbage everywhere you looked, and children ran around barefooted in that not even caring or noticing the poor conditions they were living in.  

-Kennedy Keller

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Memoriable moments

     Where to begin? Well, we were up early and very well fed by the time we left for The Home for the Sick and Dying Children this morning.  The hustle and bussel of life here in Haiti was well underway and I have to say that rush hour traffic at its worst on Highway 94 or even down town Minneapolis does not even compare to what traffic is like here..AT ALL!! As a matter of fact, I don't even think their lightest rush hour looks as tame as 94, heading North on a Friday afternoon in the summer! Going the wrong way down a one way street?? No problem, just use your horn..a lot. Oh and note to self..the bigger vehicle always gets the right of way, especially if it's coming at you fast and just as important..invest in good breaks for those quick and unexpected stops. I'm just saying.

     We of course arrived safe and sound at The Home for the Sick and Dying Children. Many in our group had not been here before, so I was curious as to what their experience would be like. The responses were as different as the day is long.  All were eager to see and interact with the children though.

      I seemed to have been watching Joan a lot today and she of course always had a baby in her arms.  Joan being the best preschool teacher EVER, would have a baby in her arms as she stood under the shade of a large leafy tree and entice a baby to grab on to the leaves hanging down. I watched as they pulled at the leaves with their little hands, mesmerized by what I am sure was their first experience with such strange shadows created by the branches and leaves in addition to the strange tactile experiences with the small and green leafy textures. It made me smile and I appreciated the fact even more that my son, Ben had her as his preschool teacher.
     My daughter Kennedy, had a much different experience today.  I think I will have the site of her burned in my memory forever, as she stood alone holding a baby in her arms with tears rolling down her cheeks in the mist of a room full of cribs filled with baby's crying out for their parents. Many stood with their arms stretched out, desperately wanting to be picked up and held again by them. My heart ached to see her with the pain so evident on her face. Sadly, trying to comfort her myself just made it worse for the both of us, as we both by then were crying. Each of us with tears for a different reason. It truly is heart wrenching to watch your child grapple with difficult and unfair life circumstances. I hope seeds have been planted in her today. Like for gratitude. I hope she can appreciate and understand what it is to have gratitude for what she does have or for what she has been given in her life. Not to make her feel guilty, but because I believe to have that, you can turn what you have into enough and you learn that having more does not mean you have it all. In fact, I believe that having gratitude is what brings you happiness in life because you discover its the people in your life not the things that are important.

Jennifer Keller Sirianni
How do you recap a day like today?

We started out our day with a wonderful breakfast to help nourish us for the tasks of the day. Today would be a morning of serving at either the Home of the Sick and Dying or Gertrudes Orphanage.
I, Stacey, came on this trip with the idea that I would be bringing love to those in Haiti.  What I didn't expect was to receive so much love in return.  I was one that went to the Home of the Sick and Dying Children. I expected to see so many sick children, but what I saw were kids who were just wanting that human touch, someone to hold them.  These babies gave so much love, they wanted to hold on to us. They wanted us to know we were wanted. Ironic when it is little ones who seem to have been left for someone else to tend to.  I also noticed how when it was time for those parents who were there visiting their child to leave, they sought out one of us volunteers to help console their child and ease the pain of both being separated again.  These aren't bad parents, they just want the best for their children like we do.  I am grateful they have a place to seek out to fill that void that may be in these kids lives.  
I found it interesting that while there we noticed a few other ladies volunteering. It never ceases to amaze me to find other people from Minnesota there helping out.  I have to give a big shout out to this wonderful state for being filled with people who have big hearts and are willing to serve.
 I think that is why this team is able to do so much in such a little time. We are a group willing to be open to what God wants us to see, who he puts in front of us and what it is we are to do for serving.

The other half of our group went to Gertrud's Orphanage and helped with the kids who were there. At our group time tonight I was in awe at listening to the stories of their day and seeing the growth in my team members. Seeing the photo's that were shared helped let us see that those kids too appreciate the TIME that is spent with them.

That leads me to our afternoon trip to LaPherre's Orphanage. Our whole team was able to go. No one from the group had been there. Once again, we had thought we would be going in to bring love to these children, and once again they gave to us! Right away they lined up and wanted to sing for us. And sing they did. To see a small group of kids who wanted to do something for us when we are there to do for them I will never tire of.  When we tried to organize activities, they jumped in and showed us what they wanted to be done. We were also reminded that no matter what the activity or items we brought to play with it was the gift of time and touch that mattered the most. 

Love knows no language barriers, love has no price. Love costs nothing to give and you can never give enough. I believe the Holy Spirit is alive in Haiti and with this there is hope for us all.  I have restored hope that we can be people of faith. I have faith in this thing called hope.

Faithfully Y

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Water Truck Day in Cité Soleil

Today was our first real day out in Haiti! We spent it in Cité Soleil delivering water. Our first out of three stops was on the edge of the coast.  Looking out towards the water, mounds and mounds of garbage fit right along with the strange smell we experienced stepping off the truck. People were lined up at the water trucks with buckets, eager to get their water that must last longer than we would like to know. Naked children and half clothed children jumped to us as soon as we got off the truck, wanting love and to be held. For many on this team, this was the first time experiencing such extreme poverty like this. It truly is hard to believe these conditions even exist. We walked along the shacks, out onto open land by the ocean. That land is used to bury people of Cité Soleil who pass away. Looking around, garbage was everywhere and the water was green; however, the Haitians who call that place home did not have the spirit that correlated with the overwhelming conditions. The people here are grateful. They are God loving; people loving. They are welcoming and kind. They are the definition of the word “community” that I would somehow like to replace with the current dictionary definition. Two more stops after that brought more new experiences and new “stretch marks” to our hearts. Tonight we talked about why we are here, and what we experienced means for us. One of the reasons I came back to Haiti is because the Haitians know something I don’t- and I want to learn to have that. Despite how horrible the conditions may seem to who ever is reading this, the PEOPLE are more amazing than I could ever put into words. Their need for God makes their hearts huge. When I was washing a naked little boy with dirt all over his body today, the kids started taking water and washing me right back. Nothing is their “own”, it is everybody’s. The constant need for God and need for other people brings such a joy to the spirit, as difficult to understand that may be. I am certain that we are not here to “help” but to “be helped”. Experiencing this country totally turns what you thought your world was upside down. It makes you question what you put importance on. I makes you wonder why we as an American culture try so hard to be first, when we are called to be last.

Tomorrow we have an exciting day that we can’t wait to share all about with you guys J

Much love,

Bridget Duffy 

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Observer

Greetings from Haiti! We made it safe and sound without any delays or mishaps...Yaayy!

Today's word for me was... Observing

 Today, for myself, I feel like I was just an observer of the events going on around me. Maybe it was just my way of dealing with the anticipation of being back in Haiti once again. I was looking closely for any improvements from the last time I was here. I did of course find some, but sadly much has also stayed the same.

One thing that struck me while driving to the guest house from the airport today was the huge contrast from the beautiful tropical scenery off in the distance, with its majestic green grassy mountains and warm sunny sky's as well as even seeing natures beauty strangely, woven in abundance amongst the dismantled, trashed filled  and pot holed streets with it's beautiful fuchsia colored flowers and thick green bushes and then focusing in on the hustle and bussel of down town Port Au Prince and the many impoverished neighborhood districts. The contrast just seems so surreal and conflicting.

This is when I realized my 17 year old daughter, Kennedy was experiencing this for the very first time, at that moment..Taking it all in..what was she thinking? I wondered this as we drove through the loud busseling traffic and through the trash filled streets in the dismantled and crumbling neighborhoods. I think the impact was immediate and painful for her, as I could see it in her face, the way she pressed her lips together and looked away from me when I asked her how she was doing. She was affected.  She said "mom, I feel so sad!" She pointed out a man lying on the sidewalk sleeping because there was no place else for him to go and she noticed the little Haitian girl who was playing, by simply hitting a cinder block with a big stick she had found for entertainment. No fancy toys, no gadgets here. This was her first experience with true poverty. I could see emotion's in her face. This week is going to be a journey, for all of us I think.

Please pray for us dear friends and family as we go forth this coming week in His go where we are needed and not by where we are just wanting and with open hearts and open minds.

Jennifer Keller Sirianni